EDITOR’S NOTE: The following story is the fourth in our “Angels for the Animals” series spotlighting individuals in our community who care for stray, orphaned and abandoned cats and dogs.
BLUEFIELD — Angel Dehaven lives up to her name. From the homeless cats she rehabilitates in her home to the work she does for Pit Bull Second Chance Rescue, she is truly, an Angel for the Animals.
As fate would have it, about two years ago Dehaven was intrigued by the animal rescue efforts she saw on social media when Cindy Mabardy, co-founder of Pit Bull Second Chance Rescue, came through Dehaven’s checkout line at Walmart, wearing a t-shirt representing her organization. Dehaven asked if the rescue organization was local and Mabardy responded that the rescue is local, and she runs it.
Dehaven started volunteering with Pit Bull Second Chance regularly. Soon, she and her husband adopted Daisy, the pit bull nanny to sick kittens.
“When I adopted her, I had already had three cats at the time,” Dehaven said. “Cindy made it clear that she was not sure how she was going to act around cats because she was not nice with them at the shelter, so we brought her home and she ended up loving the kittens, she actually helps me with the kittens. If they make a mess while they are eating, she cleans their fur, she is a huge help. She is kind of like my partner in crime.”
A smile is clear through Dehaven’s voice as she shares her experiences with Daisy throughout the years, particularly the events that lead to her adoption.
“I met Daisy at the shelter when I was donating blankets. She just came over and sat on my lap and she made it very clear that, ‘hey, I like you, I would like it if you would take me home,” Dehaven recalled. “Cindy called me one day after I volunteered and she said that she did not know what was wrong with Daisy, but whenever I left, she tore up her kennel and that is when I realized that she had picked me. I brought my husband to meet her and we brought her home that day.”
Soon, Dehaven became a part of the rescue and foster community. As she continued to volunteer, she was asked to join the Board of Directors of Pit Bull Second Chance. Today, Dehaven is the Director of the rescue and the webpage coordinator, while Mabardy maintains her co-founder status.
“Now it is just me and her pretty much running the rescue,” Dehaven said. “She is so professional and passionate about animals and specifically pit bulls that it kind of lit the fire under me. Honestly, growing up, I never thought that I would be able to help animals. I knew that I could take them home and care for them, but I never thought of myself as being able to rescue animals. It just felt so far fetched. It seemed like there was so much to it, but the rescues have shown that when we work together and help each other wherever we need it, it is possible for anyone who has a passion for animals can help”
Today, Dehaven is a Surgical Assistant at Mountain State Oral and Facial Surgery, the Director of Pit Bull Second Chance and a foster of many kittens. Her own cats have a hard time adjusting to new adult cats in the home, so Dehaven, her husband and Daisy, the pit bull, become the primary caretakers for the kittens.
“With fostering, the hard thing is that you get attached to them. I have a picture of every cat, every kitten I have fostered and every time they leave, I cry. I know they are in good hands, but that is what I try to stress to people who do want to foster, it is hard. You might think you won’t get attached, but you absolutely will,” Dehaven said. “I look at it this way, if I adopt this kitten, that takes one spot away from one that is out on the street, hungry and sick. You just have to look at it like, this animal could take a spot for one in need, whereas this one can have a home and be loved for the rest of its life.”
Dehaven also works with Second Chance for Cats or Southern W.Va. Animal League to fund caring for the kittens and adopting the kittens out to good homes. While there is no such thing as a “typical day” for someone who rescues animals, Dehaven’s days revolve around the animals in her care.
“A lot of times I just like to spend time with them, even if I do not have the time, I try to sit with them and pet them, especially if they are sick,” Dehaven said. “Since coronavirus, it has changed a lot. Before, I could go a week and not have any fosters and tend to just my personal cats, but ever since the coronavirus has happened I have had at least five kittens at a time. There are so many more that need help, but unfortunately there are just not enough people to foster.”
Dehaven said her favorite part of rescuing and fostering sick kittens is seeing them come back to life under her care.
“I have had some really awesome experiences with the animals, but once they are all better and they kind of, ‘come to,’ that is the best. They come out into my home with my cats and my dog and kind of just live a normal life, that is the best experience,” Dehaven said. “Sometimes they come in so sick and battered, seeing them come into my home and interact with my cats like nothing ever happened, they are un-phased by their pasts, that is what makes it all worth it.”
As for the future, Dehaven plans to rescue and foster until she cannot anymore. Her husband is passionate about the work as well and they keep a constant eye out for animals in need.
Michelle Cole, W.Va. Third Congressional District Leader of the Humane Society of the United States praised Dehaven for all of her work to help local homeless animals.
“Angel has been helping to create awareness for bully breeds working with Pit Bulls Second Chance Rescue. Fostering, fundraising, and educating about the breed and the stigmatism associated with the term pit bull are just a few ways Angel contributes her time as a volunteer,” Cole said. “Many of the dogs who are accepted by Pit Bull Second Chance have found themselves in the Mercer County Animal Shelter and being rescued by this organization ensures that they are safe until their forever home is found. It truly is their second chance at life!”
According to Cole, like all of the non-profit animal rescue organizations, Pit Bulls Second Chance Rescue is relying more heavily on tax deductible contributions to continue their work. If you would like to make a donation you may send donations through PayPal giving which allows the rescue to receive all the funds instead of paying any fees by going to https://www.paypal.com/us/fundraiser/charity/2834157.
— Contact Emily Rice at email@example.com